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Twenty Great Pianists
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Etudes d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini No.6 Theme and Variations in A minor from Caprice No.24 S140 (1838) [4:12]
Claudio Arrau (piano) recorded 1928
Liebestraum No.3 in A flat S541 (1850) [4:08]
Simon Barere (piano) recorded 1950
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Impromptu No.5 in F sharp minor Op.102 (1909) [1:58]
Robert Casadesus (piano) recorded 1951
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Four Pieces Op.4 – No.4 Suggestion diabolique (1912) [2:30]
Shura Cherkassky (piano) recorded 1946
Piano Concerto No.1 in D flat Op.10 – finale only (1912) [4:00]
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)/ Moscow Youth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin recorded 1952
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz No.7 in C sharp minor Op.64 No.2 [2:54]
Alfred Cortot (piano) recorded 1925
Nocturne No.20 in C sharp minor Op. posthumous [3:20]
Guiomar Novaes (piano) recorded 1954
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Suite bergamasque – No.3 Clair de lune (1905) [4:48]
Walter Gieseking (piano)
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Six Songs – No.3 Daisies Op.38 [2:20]
Emil Gilels (piano) recorded 1945
Prelude No.6 in G minor Op.23 No.6 [3:53]
Moura Lympany (piano) recorded 1951
Morceaux de fantasie - Prelude in C sharp minor Op.3 (1892) [3:36]
Sergei Rachmaninoff (piano)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Marche militaire No.1 – arranged Tausig D733 (1818)
Leopold Godowsky (piano) recorded 1920
Erlkonig – transcribed by Franz LISZT (1811-1886) S557A (1837)
Egon Petri (piano) recorded 1951 [4:33]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No.147 - Jesu Joy Of Man's Desiring (arranged Hess) (1723) [3:11]
Myra Hess (piano) recorded 1928
Vladimir HOROWITZ (1904-1989)
Variations on a Theme from Bizet's 'Carmen' (Danse Bohème) (1926) [3:36]
Vladimir Horowitz (piano) recorded 1947
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Arabesque in C Op.18 (1838) [5:56]
Wilhelm Kempff (piano) recorded 1951
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Danzas españolas - Andaluza (Playera) Op.37 (1892-1900) [4:15]
Alicia de Larrocha (piano) recorded 1954
Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Humoresque de concert – Book I No.1 – Minuet in G, Op.14 (1888) [3:44]
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (piano) recorded 1926
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El Amor Brujo – ballet – Ritual Fire Dance (1915) [3:22]
Artur Rubinstein (piano) recorded 1947
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.8 in C minor Pathetique Op.13 - Adagio Cantabile (1798) [5:30]
Rudolf Serkin (piano)
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I’ve also reviewed Living Era’s companion Violin volume (see review) and since the thought behind them is similar I won’t expand too much. Twenty pianists playing twenty pieces means another compilation. As before the job stands by three criteria – selection, documentation and transfer quality.
Some of the selections will be familiar from previous issues in Living Era’s catalogue. The Paderewski and Horowitz are here making second appearances as the company has devoted single discs to both musicians. And I’ve again no quibble with missing Greats and the inclusion of players such as Lympany and Novaes – superb executants though they were – alongside such as Godowsky, Cortot and Rachmaninoff. The disc makes no silly pretensions for the greatest this or the greatest that.
As with the violin disc there are anomalous selections. I appreciate that Serkin wasn’t much given to fripperies but the inclusion of a single movement from his Pathetique sonata strikes something of a false note as indeed does the inclusion of the finale of the Prokofiev First Concerto played by Richter. Why not a vignette piece from him?
As before the documentation is generally first class. I have consistently commended this label for its diligence and professionalism in this respect – full matrix and issue and recording details as well as full opus numbers and dates of composition. Many a specialist company neglects to do this and I repeat my position that budget price doesn’t mean budget documentation.
But – and there’s a big but. In the companion volume I disliked the transfers. The 1917 Elman was pretty much unrecognisable as the molten titan of yore. And here there’s something far worse, an utter travesty of his Russian colleague Rachmaninoff. This is simply an unacceptable piece of work and it turns the 1919 Edison into a synthetic horror show – truly horrible. It’s unrecognisable from the original or the transfer in the RCA Rachmaninoff edition. Hess’s Bach lacks air and timbral qualities – Pearl is noisy but catches her colours. Something has gone wrong with the Barere where the dynamics sound plain unnatural – too much noise suppression has done for this one as well. Cembal d’amour transferred this whole last Barere session. The Remington they used was scratchy and none too clean but at least it preserved Barere’s tone and timing. Cherkassky’s Prokofiev has had all its colours drained away – hear it on Ivory Classics to get most of them back. And so on. A sauce of noise reduction is simply no solution to patient listening. I have no desire to teach transfer engineers how to suck eggs but they are doing these musicians and the public a great disservice in transferring discs in this way.
Jonathan Woolf




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